Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harper appeals to "ordinary people" to defend his arts cuts

It's the old RNC strategy, dividing and conquering, pitting groups against each other in the grand scheme to get Mr. Harper his majority. What else is new? The public putting him on the verge of a majority seems to love it thus far: "Harper skewers gala crowd, defends arts cuts." Here's the snide appeal to "ordinary working people" who Mr. Harper, never having been one, claims to understand oh so well:
"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said during a campaign stop in Saskatoon.
Rich gala people are the new enemy of ordinary people. Yep, it's really something, our PM in action. As noted in the report, he declined to repeat those remarks in French, knowing the sensitivity in Quebec on the issue. Harper did proceed to repeat the big talking point that the Conservatives are masters in deploying to obscure what they're really doing:
While some arts programs have been cut, Harper noted the overall budget of Canadian Heritage has climbed eight per cent.

Every group can't get everything it wants, he added. "Ordinary people understand we have to live within a budget."
The Globe looked into Harper's claim on the budget to Canadian Heritage increasing and found it to be highly misleading. The Conservatives cite this statistic in order to give the impression that they're not cutting arts programmes due to the political outcry. But they are:
The Globe and Mail has parsed the budgets and crunched the numbers to reveal the true trajectory of Canada's support for the arts. A close look at federal budget documents suggests that nearly $45-million in recent funding cuts are symptomatic of a trend under the Conservatives to shift dollars away from arts and culture, and funnel them into branches of the Department of Canadian Heritage that focus on the department's social mandate.
...
Spokespeople for Canadian Heritage confirmed, when approached by The Globe this week, that every program cut under strategic review has come from the department's arts-and-culture arm, leaving untouched the branches devoted to sport, youth, citizenship and identity, and diversity and multiculturalism. Such a revelation certainly hints at a targeted approach to arts cuts, which would contradict the government's assertions that programs were axed based on efficiency reviews - and without ideological motivation. (emphasis added)
Secondly, the 2006 election has allowed an inflated claim to be made by the Conservatives on their arts support:
But the largest apparent boost to arts funding in recent years overstates the Tories' commitment to such funding, as a soon-to-be-published report from the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) explains. "When looking at figures, one must bear in mind that the budgetary process for 2005-06 and 2006-07 was disrupted by a federal election," says Alain Pineau, national director of the CCA. "This makes comparisons between ... the 38th and 39th parliaments somewhat tricky. All expenditures, including those for arts and culture, are underrepresented in '05/'06 and inflated in '06/'07 because of this kink in the process."

Federal budget documents show the Conservatives spent $3.2-billion in 2006-07, and suggest that Liberal spending had dipped to slightly more than $2.9-billion the previous year. But the Conservative figure includes money spent by the Liberals in 2005-06. The reason: Such figures are meant to include the government's main estimates, offered when the budget is unveiled, and its supplementary estimates, which add small amounts spent as the year unfolds. In late 2005, Parliament was dissolved before the supplementary dollars spent by the Liberals could be reported - and they were instead tacked onto Conservative estimates for the following fiscal year.
So Harper is clearly spinning the truth on what's happening on arts funding in this country, under his watch. And now he's pitting "ordinary people" against the arts communities, appealing to the worst kind of divide and conquer politics, once again.

Tremendously strong, inspirational leader.